Raja Aamir Mahmood Bhatti
This year, Nakhchivan which is called a cradle of civilization is celebrating the 90th anniversary of establishment of Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic. The Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic with a total area of 5,500 km² and population of 435,400 is a landlocked exclave of the Republic of Azerbaijan. It is bordering Armenia, Iran and Turkey. The strip of land at a distance of 44-45 km of width extending towards the Araz River separates Nakhchivan from the rest of Azerbaijan as a result of the illegal allot of Zangazur district, the ancient Azerbaijan land, to Armenia in 1920 by the Soviet leadership.
There are 1162 historical-cultural monuments in Nakhchivan AR, while 58 of them are of the world importance. The Gazanchi fortress (3 millennium B.C), Alinjagala (III century), “Ashab-e-Kahf”, Noah tomb (VIII-XII century), Gamigaya pictography, Momuna khatun tomb (XII century), Gulustan tomb (XIII century) are some of those important historical monuments.
The area that is now Nakhchivan became part of the Safavi dynasty in the 16th century. In 1828, after the last Russo-Persian War and the Treaty of Turkmenchay, the Nakhchivan khanate passed into Imperial Russian possession. After the collapse of Russian Empire Nakhchivan became a part of Azerbaijan Democratic Republic which independence lasted only for 23 months.
The Armenians tried to derive maximum advantage from the results of WWI and the Russian Revolution. They availed this opportunity to tear as much land as possible from their neighbors. Annexation of Nakhchivan was one of the Armenians´ foremost intentions. In 1918-20, when foreign invaders had supremacy in Nakhchivan, the Armenians repeatedly tried to get hold of Nakhchivani land. It was only the brave resistance of the local population and Turkey´s help that prevented the Armenians from taking possession of the territory.
The Soviet regime was established in Azerbaijan in April 1920 when the 11th Soviets Army occupied the republic. On 10 August 1920, the chairman of the Nakhchivan Revolutionary Committee, M. Baktashi, sent a letter to the chairman of the Council of People´s Commissars of the Azerbaijani SSR, Nariman Narimanov where stated that “…Nakhchivan considers itself to be an integral part of the Azerbaijani Soviet Republic.”
In the late 20th century, Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic has again become one of the flash points of the region. The Armenians using the political chaos and support of Central USSR Government again targeted Azerbaijan trying to annex Azerbaijani lands. Hence, the Republic of Azerbaijan again confronted with the Armenian terrorism and the armed attacks were launched into Karabakh and Nakhchivan. In the wake of aggressive policy pursued by Armenia, the existing railway line and motor-way joining Nakhchivan with the other regions of Azerbaijan were closed. Nakhchivan being isolated was constrained to subsist under the blockade conditions.
During those hard days people of Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic appeled to Heydar Aliyev, the National Leader of Azerbaijan, who they believed is the only politician capable to ensure security, territorial integrity and stability. On September 3, 1991 in the extraordinary session of the Supreme Majlis of Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic, Heydar Aliyev took charge of the Chairman of Nakhchivani Parliament. Soon after that, with initiative of Heydar Aliyev, the national state symbols of Azerbaijan were for the first time adopted in Nakhchivan, the “Soviet Socialist” phrase was extracted from the name of the Autonomous Republic, the work of local agencies of the communist party was ceased and it was rejected to hold referendum for Nakhchivan to remain the part of the USSR.
Thenceforward, Soviet troops were dislocated out from the region, Azerbaijan’s 3-colour flag was raised in border points, the decrees establishing principles of historical justice and independent statehood were issued, the agrarian reform was conducted, and the query regarding the solidarity day of world Azerbaijanis was raised before the Supreme Soviet of the Republic of Azerbaijan. On the other hand, the security of the people was ensured in the autonomous republic, the Armenian aggression was halted, the economic relations neighboring Turkey and Iran were established.
Today, Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic of the Republic of Azerbaijan is flourishing. Being a participant of the Third Baku International Humanitarian Forum, I got a chance to get acquainted with fabulous features of Nakhchivan. After the official part of the Conference that was attended by around 800 participants including 7 former Presidents, 13 Nobel Prize laureates, 7 Emeritus Professors, 107 world-famous public and prominent political figures, for the next two days, excursion tours to Gabala, Ganja, Nakhchivan and the other parts of the country were arranged. During the visit of delegates to Nakhchivan we were taken to historical sites and museums, state universities, theatres, Sarayis, mosques, shrines, temples in order to get them acquainted with Azerbaijani culture, history and traditions. Visit to Ashab-e-Kahf, the very important place that is having a special corner in the hearts of every Muslim, was indeed most memorable. I had already penned my memories of this unforgettable visit in the page of this magazine that can be read from the following link (http://www.diplomaticstar.net/?p=1078).